The Ancient Greeks

By ,

This slim book (it’s only 32 pages) is an excellent introduction to the Ancient Greeks. It manages to cover not only the historical background, like the Persian Wars, but also what Greeks gave to the world, e.g. theatre, democracy, philosophy and the Olympic Games. It looks at major figures, like Alexander the Great, and the philosopher, Socrates; and there’s a roll call of the chief gods and their attributes. ‘Hermes was the messenger god, and he had amazing winged sandals.’ What more do you need to know about him?

It explains how Greek society worked—yes, all citizens had the vote, but women and slaves weren’t citizens. Women stayed at home and weren’t allowed an education. As a female cartoon figure says: ‘That’s sort of unfair, right?’

There’s a section on Homer’s epics. I love the cartoon of Paris and Helen. He says, ‘Helen, I love you. Run away with me?’ Helen, with a knowing look, says, ‘I’m already married to Menelaus… but okay!’ The sections on Jason and the Argonauts, and Theseus and the Minotaur are fun, too. There’s also a useful fold-out time line and map.

Ancient Greeks is intelligent as well as witty and the authors manage to get across the complexities of the Ancient Greek world with great skill. It’s not easy to home in on the essence of Greek philosophy, for example, and make it both accessible and fun in a few words and a couple of cartoons.

My one niggle is that explanations are sometimes too truncated. For example, columns are described as Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, when, surely, it should be the capitals. And architectural words like ‘friezes’ are mentioned but neither explained nor illustrated. That said, this book is terrific and any child of eight plus should love it. Highly recommended.

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(UK) £8.99

(UK) 9781847809513